Search engine traffic has typically been regarded as the single strongest driver of traffic to any website and, in turn, provides the most valuable medium for traffic. Search engines have made improvements not only to finding websites with content relevant to a search query or keyword, but also in learning to understand the intent of a searcher’s query and finding content based on that intention. So, for example, if you search for pizza, the search engine attempts to understand if your intent is to make a pizza, look for the calories in a pizza, find a place that delivers pizza or find the closest pizza place near you. The results you get will be based on what the search engine determines as your intent.
What this means is keywords, although important signals to search engines, are not as meaningful as the content itself in relation to a searcher’s query.
With frequent search engine updates rolling out, Google has shifted to a new search algorithm, Humingbird, that still focuses on a search query or keywords phrase, but now has a stronger correlation to the intention and history of what the searcher has searched. This supports the idea that it’s not only important to have optimized content on your website, but to have search-optimized content that solves the need of a visitor to your site.
The future of search engine rankings is never set in stone; it's important to consider new possible factors and dismiss outdated factors. These are the outdated factors that are no longer considered valuable for SEO:
Search engines have made improvements to their current algorithms and have hinted that the future of search will be more about website interaction, meaning they will measure the bounce-back rate to search engine pages from websites that did not meet a visitor’s intent (in other words, your content needs to add further value to what the user is seeking on your website and not just meet the needs of a searcher’s keyword query).
Social is where it becomes a matter of semantics since, as previously stated, social is not currently included in search rankings. That said, it's only a matter of time when search engines can fully understand your social reach on individual social media platforms and will be able to value that metric into their search algorithms. So from a search perspective, it's important now to have a social presence and to be interacting with the proper audiences and sharing quality content so as not to be excluded when these rankings are considered.
The state of search is an evolving journey that changes with every algorithm update. At the core of search engine optimization is the understanding that it’s not optimizing for search engines that's important, rather it's generating valuable content for users and enhancing the valuable content through search engine optimization best practices. By doing so you can see longevity through search engine results and avoid the risk of being hurt by Google’s next big update.